A couple complained to us that one of their neighbours’ security cameras could film into their lounge windows and parts of their garden and pool area.
In their complaint to us, the couple included photos of the camera which overlooked parts of their property - a large house on a big section with a swimming pool. The couple said the relationship with their neighbours - whom they said operated a bed and breakfast business - had gone from bad to worse, culminating in the installation of the camera.
Up until the time the camera was set up, the two households had traded accusations over a range of other issues, even involving lawyers and the local policeman.
The couple said the camera was an intrusion into their privacy because it could record their activity “every minute of the day and night”. At night time, it appeared the camera was operated by a motion sensor because a red light would flash on and off when either of the couple moved or adjusted their blinds.
We contacted the neighbours who owned the house with the CCTV camera and explained the nature of the complaint. We notified them that the complaint could raise issues under principles 1, 3 and 4 of the Privacy Act. These principles set out an agency’s obligations when collecting personal information. Principle 1 says an agency must have a lawful purpose, connected with its function, for collecting personal information; principle 3 sets out what an agency must tell an individual before it collects their personal information; and principle 4 says information should not be collected in a manner that is unlawful or unreasonably intrusive.
We asked the neighbours a number of questions including were their cameras pointed at the neighbours? Were the cameras recording information? and, did any cameras capture footage of the inside of the neighbours’ home?
The neighbours explained that the camera in question was a cheap plastic dummy camera, used as an “intruder deterrent”, as they lived in a remote, exposed location, and the property had been burgled previously while they had been away overseas. The neighbours believed the camera did not contravene any Privacy Act principles. They clarified that their home was not a bed and breakfast operation (as had been claimed) and they were a “private couple living at a private address”.
We accepted the assurances given by the neighbours and went back to the complainants. We explained there was no evidence their neighbours were collecting any personal information because the camera was a dummy camera to deter burglars. In the circumstances, we had reached the end of our process and were unable to take any action. The complainants were satisfied by this and thanked us for our work on their complaint and we closed the file.
Security cameras ̶ CCTV ̶ intrusion of privacy ̶ collection of personal information ̶ Privacy Act 1993; principles 1, 3 and 4